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  • Reflection removal in automobiles.

    Hello guys.

    I am a decent automobile photographer myself but I can not master one specific area in post.

    As the title hints, the problem is reflections.

    I know how to get rid of reflections with circular polarizers and through using strobes... but that isn't alway possible.

    Here is a perfect example of what I am trying to replicate.

    http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/5...ter/index.html

    The reflections on the doors, wheel arch, bumper are cleaned up to perfection.

    I have my own guesses at using gradient, blurs, ect... but those are just guesses.

    I know the motion blur its done with a virtual rig... just trying to figure out the reflection part.

    Can anyone give me some tips or preferably point me to a tutorial that can help?

    Thank you guys for any help you can give.
    Last edited by Doc Fluty; 12-08-2013, 01:21 AM.

  • #2
    Re: Reflection removal in automobiles.

    Eraanexact and Repairman have both worked in automotive retouching roles. Hopefully one of them will chime in. I want to tell you not to focus too much on blurs or gradients as a final means. If the data conveyed by the starting image is basically unusable, something like that could provide a new starting point assuming sufficient illustration skill to complete the work. It's not like blurring something out will solve the entire problem. You would still be left with a blurred image that doesn't convey enough transition or detail, and you have to ensure that you match any noise that was originally there, both in placement and scale. Nothing looks more fake to me than a flat spot. Also keep in mind that there is a lot of masking there. That in itself is extremely important. I've noticed that in more ideal circumstances, a car shop would obtain more than one photo, allowing them to use a shot where such reflections were subdued by way of lighting. That is just a matter of changing what the paint is reflecting. It might be difficult here. It's reflects a tree. There are gaps where the sky can be seen between the leaves.

    I really dislike the rear bumper in that shot, as it doesn't have the right look for metal reflecting sky. Metal tends to convert more energy to heat, giving the impression of a tinted reflection compared to something that would be regarded as an insulator, yet it's not quite right here. It's also too much the same color, which kills the slight convexity that should be felt on that bumper piece. Overall I think his work is really neat. Parts of it really appeal to me, which make certain details that are off pop out. They don't seem up to the level of the rest, if that makes sense.

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    • #3
      Re: Reflection removal in automobiles.

      Thanks for chiming in Klev.

      I too dislike the methods of using a gradient and blur... thats kinda why im looking for someone smarter than me to tell me how to do it right lol.

      In shots I NEED to look right I end up cloning a spot that looks right onto a new blank layer. I go back dozens of times cloning the exact same spot and rotating/masking the new spot as needed.... It "kind of" gets it done... but I'm sure there is a better way.

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      • #4
        Re: Reflection removal in automobiles.

        You might want to check out Ian Goode's automotive retouch video over in our rentals section.

        http://www.retouchpro.com/rentals
        Learn by teaching
        Take responsibility for learning

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        • #5
          Re: Reflection removal in automobiles.

          Well, first get it right in camera. Use Flags and scrims to shoot both with and without reflections, so you can remove them later.

          If you don't, you might want to clone out a piece of paint from the different image of the same part of the car, that was shot at another angle, or even transform another panel to "fill" the gap made by reflections.

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          • #6
            Re: Reflection removal in automobiles.

            Doc Fluty,

            As Klev mentioned, I got my start in automotive retouching. We used to basically airbrush reflections into more simplified shapes so as to not be so distracting. I started making this pdf guide for new hires almost ten years ago, but the info holds up:

            https://app.box.com/shared/uxej5onnft

            It's kind of a rough primer of the basics, and your question is covered.

            Also, you can spin wheels from an otherwise static shot using radial blur, the only catch is that you have to distort the wheel into as close to a perfect circle as you can first, then do the radial blur (I like to make a range, for example 10pixel, 25pixel, 50pixel, 100pixel; so that you can "speed it up" or "slow it down" later if necessary), and then distort it back to it's original shape. Much easier to do when the car is in profile, and a bit trickier when it's shot from the back or a 3/4 angle.

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            • #7
              Re: Reflection removal in automobiles.

              Originally posted by Doc Fluty View Post
              Thanks for chiming in Klev.

              I too dislike the methods of using a gradient and blur... thats kinda why im looking for someone smarter than me to tell me how to do it right lol.

              In shots I NEED to look right I end up cloning a spot that looks right onto a new blank layer. I go back dozens of times cloning the exact same spot and rotating/masking the new spot as needed.... It "kind of" gets it done... but I'm sure there is a better way.
              I never found cloning to be all that useful over really smooth surfaces. Cars have so much subtle curvature by design. It allows for good highlight flow. It won't be soon, but maybe one day I will make a video about straight out painting the appearance of metal or metallic paint, as it is something I can do. When it gets to the point of cloning over nearly everything, it seems more practical to just remake it from scratch. I mean at that point what are you really preserving? You are just instancing pieces of photo all over the place.

              I was under the impression that car photographers shoot a lot of different lighting setups so that these pieces can be comped together. I've only known two of them. I don't know of any other way to get the kind of detail that is considered desirable for automotive work. Some car photographers shot 8x10 film prior to P45 and later backs. DSLRs are well suited for backplates and spherical hdris though, if you're shooting a location that will take a rendered vehicle image.

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              • #8
                Re: Reflection removal in automobiles.

                I do this type of work frequently for a major car manufacturer. What was done here is simply pathing the separate body panels and carefully painting and applying gradients. The reflection is also a path with a gradient applied to the shape. Be careful that it doesn't look too "illustrated" though

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                • #9
                  Re: Reflection removal in automobiles.

                  I can't add too much to the other comments. My approach would be to mask everything - a good thing as there are loads of small self contained panels which makes working, zoomed in, easier - and either airbrush the whole damn thing or place pre-pared coloured grads through individual masks. Naturally, keeping the grads as active layers allows endless tweaking of angles for a refined finish. You could practically paint the whole thing a flat colour and just add hilites and shadows to taste. The final image may even be a mix of those methods. One tip; if you need to create a smooth gradation (or shadow) you will get better results if you apply the grad in at least 3 hits. e.g. use the same grad layer with the first application at, say 10%, offset the position and place at 30% opacity and then the last (or in the case off a shadow, the tightest) at 60%. This is always case dependent so my percentages are to make the point only. Matching the grain structure would be critical to a successful outcome of such a paint orientated image. Back in the day we would have evened up and blackened every panel space but that was more on studio shots. As already mentioned the danger is to overwork the retouch and end up with an illustration. Nice job though.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Reflection removal in automobiles.

                    Thanks everyone for your thoughts. I will come back to this thread often and put into practice all of your ideas to see which ones I can master.

                    eraanexact, there is a good idea in the PDF. never thought about making a path for each panel and external items (door handle, lights, ect).

                    Thats a good idea i will put into practice.

                    Originally posted by Repairman View Post
                    either airbrush the whole damn thing or place pre-pared coloured grads through individual masks. Naturally, keeping the grads as active layers allows endless tweaking of angles for a refined finish. You could practically paint the whole thing a flat colour and just add highlights and shadows to taste.
                    I have seen videos of some photographers I admire who do something like this. They will convert the car to black and white and then paint over the car with a hue similar to the original on a separate blank layer. Then change that blend mode to color or something like that.

                    I tried it a few times with mixed results but never found proper instruction on why i was doing what i was. So i think i was using it in some instances where another method would be more practical.

                    how would you recommend adding the shadows and highlights after this.. through a blank layer using white on a overlay blend mode or, dodge/burn on 50% gray or something else?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Reflection removal in automobiles.

                      The good thing about the VW is that all the visual clues are in the original. ie you can work straight over the top by 1) using your pen curves or polygonal lasso to trace the panel edges and 2) there are enough 'witness' hilites/shads that describe the form. How you procede depends on your talent with an airbrush - I use a large tablet and can get a nice sweep with the airbrush that intuitively follows the curves of the panels. For a larger panel I would make a very soft edged ellipse or circle (depends on the target shape) in both a darker and lighter tone than the proposed flat colour of the vehicle. These dark or light shapes (masked by the selection) would be placed so the feathered curved edge corresponds with the current panel hilites/shads. Dang, I have to go my car is on a meter!

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                      • #12
                        Re: Reflection removal in automobiles.

                        Not much to say, all was told. I usually just select all the parts, and brush. It's like redrawing all from zero trying to be as much as realistic possible keeping in mind the depth and light direction.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Reflection removal in automobiles.

                          As far as changing the color, Jim DeVitale came up with a method for changing color called the .com method. There are three layers of color, each one set to color, overlay, and multiply blend modes respectively. Then the opacity is adjusted to get the proper look. Back in the late 70's when I was working in a photo processing lab, the guys from Detroit would bring their 8X10 chromes to our lab when they were doing a shoot on the West coast. Man those were amazing images!

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                          • #14
                            Re: Reflection removal in automobiles.

                            Thanks for sharing this csuebele. Interesting, never heard about this .com method. Can un explain better which is the correct way to use it?
                            Last edited by Isedo; 12-21-2013, 07:17 AM.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Reflection removal in automobiles.

                              To do the .com color replacement method, isolate the area you want to change the color and put it on a new layer. Then desaturate the layer so you just have a gray scale image. Here you can either lock the transparency, duplicate the layer, and fill with the color you want, or you can use a solid color adjustment layer clipped to that layer. Change this layer's blend mode to color at 50% opacity. Duplicate the color layer and set the blend to overlay at 50% opacity. Duplicate the overlay layer and set the blend mode to multiply at 50% opacity. Insert a curves of levels adjustment layer between the grayscale layer and the color blend layer. Use this to adjust the luminosity of the color by either setting it to screen or multiply blend mode. It might take some some to tweak the opacity of all the layers to get exactly what you want.

                              Dan Margulis also has a good method for replacing color using L*A*B* and Pantone values.

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